From the SXSW Film Festival we’ve got a second opinion on Rob Stefaniuk’s rock ‘n roll horror-comedy Suck, which failed to impress me (review) at last September’s TIFF. You can check out Tim Anderson’s mixed review by reading below and keep up with all of our SXSW coverage by clicking here. Suck is a rock’n’roll vampire comedy about a group of musical wannabees in search of immortality and a record deal. The rock band “The Winners” have sunk so low, they will do anything to make it big. After a life-changing encounter with a vampire, they rocket to stardom only to discover that fame and fortune are not all they’re cracked up to be.
Ya know, there haven’t been enough Rock and Roll Vampire Movies. I mean, Queen of the Damned might qualify, The Lost Boys certainly acted the part of 80’s metal gods. Near Dark‘s vamps had a punk rock vibe to them. But none of these really fit the part. And that’s the problem, other than these films what do we got? Rockula? Come on, I love “Chainsaw” Dean Cameron as much as the next kid who was in 8th grade when Summer School came out, but why is that the only representation of bloodsuckers on tour? Think about it. A rock and roll lifestyle sleeping days away in a tour bus, traveling city to city, endless groupie sandwiches to snack on. It’s a vampire’s sticky red dream come true.
Suffice to say, Suck might just be the first full fledged rock and roll vampire movie to come along since Rockula. Of course like Rockula, it’s a comedy–not a cheesy late 80’s comedy–but the two do both share a penchant for some stupid slapstick moments regarding vampirism and a futile attempt to legitimize themselves by parading out a group of rock n rollers in cameo appearances. In Rockula we get, Toni Basil, Bo Diddley and Thomas Dolby. This time (and I think Suck wins here) we get Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper, Henry Rollins, Alex Lifeson and–in the greatest cameo perhaps ever–Moby (..,and no, I won’t spoil it here). And while Suck isn’t an awful movie, its not exactly hitting a home run with its plotline either.
Joey (Played by writer/director Rob Stefaniuk) is the front man for Canadian bar band The Winners–a name that is clearly meant as an irony in a film that forgot subtlety the second the first word was typed into Final Draft. The Winners aren’t so much, and so the glory of a record deal and international fame and fortune continues to elude them. They are managed by the faithless Jeff (Dave Foley) who can’t seem to quit but begs to be fired for the sake of the bands future. After one late gig, the band’s sexy female bassist (and Joey’s ex-girlfriend) Jennifer (Jessica Pare) heads off for a hook-up with a guy that looks like a cross between Paul from The Lost Boys and Radu from Subspecies. The next day it’s all clear. She’s a vampire now.
What little bit of subtlety I mentioned the film not having is tossed out the window as Stefaniuk is clearly going for a Vampirism as Heroin addiction metaphor here (I guess he never saw Abel Ferrara’s film The Addiction) as Jennifer’s body moves from euphoric bliss to a morning-after mess every time she needs to feed. It’s just another example of the derivate concepts and mediocre execution on display here. It’s also something I’d be willing to overlook if the film had been a lot more humorous. As it stands, the only real highlight of Jennifer’s turning is her need for an assistant (ala Renfield) as she turns the band hilarious roadie Hugo (Chris Ratz) into her bug eating sidekick whose stuck cleaning up the bloody mess of bodies Jennifer’s leaving in her wake. But once Jennifer’s secret gets out and the fans find themselves captivated by her presence, it’s not long before the rest of the band is willing to sell their souls for rock and roll.
Suck gains quite a few points for actually trying to be a good movie. It’s not just tossing jokes out there and waiting to see what sticks. The concept is solid and were the case not made so poorly Suck would have been a winner. What I mean is you can see the good movie inside clawing and scraping at the coffin lid, just trying to escape from the unfortunate production. The band isn’t horrible but you can totally buy into the idea that they’d need a little vampire glamour to get anyone to notice them. It’s too bad Jennifer’s Body came along last year with the same idea and pulled it off much better. What really keeps the film watchable is Jessica Paré. She does a great job with what she’s given and she knows how and when to get a laugh out of a straight performance. It hardly hurts that she’s “too die for” gorgeous–a point that serves the character as well as the male viewing audience well.
Look, compared to the nightmare of stupidity that is Rockula, Suck is a 5-star flick, but we’re not grading on a curve here. If this were American Idol and I was Randy Jackson, I might just tell you the film is “pitchy” dawg. In the end, Suck just can’t completely overcome tone problems and it can’t seem to manage to bring the funny exactly where and when it needs to. The music is fine, the band is somewhat likeable and the journey is peppered with a few moments of hope But in the end, the parts that work pale in comparison to the ones that don’t. This one is late night cable fare at best. Still, the best thing I can say about it is, if it showed up on HBO or Showtime at 2am, I would probably sit down and watch it again. It’s sorta of the cinematic equivalent of an emo band. I probably wouldn’t change the channel on my radio, but I’m not gonna run out and buy the record.